Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One achievement left......

Yes, I'm still chipping away at a bunch of games in a bid to get them ready for the grand completion challenge in January. The good news is that I'm actually doing rather well if truth be told, and should have a host of games lined up ready for me to spend an hour or so finishing them off.

Most of the titles are arcade games, but even then I've managed to do pretty well in terms of getting JUST enough points/progress/completion etc in order to leave myself needing only a few minutes work to actually complete the game in question.

The best part is the fact I've managed to get a few retail games on the verge of completion too: most notably Halo ODST (after finally knocking out that pesky Endure achievement) and Ghost Recon Future Soldier (just need to complete one more DLC challenge to be done). Those games will probably take me the longest to 'finish' come January, but even then we are talking an hour or so rather than the countless hours it would have taken from start to finish (think I've spent 90 odd hours of Ghost Recon in particular).

At the moment I'm up to 11 games that can be completed in roughly 2-3 hours work (most of that time will be doing the last ODST Firefight mission that I need). In fact the other ten games will probably not even take an hour of work between them. I love it when a plan comes together.

However, my work is not yet done. I'm still hoping to get Condemned 2 and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes into the same position from a retail point of view, plus the Golden Axe Collection, Interpol, Monkey Island 2, Nin2 Jump and a few others from the arcade side of things. If I get a bit of luck I may even manage to complete Texas Hold 'Em in January but that all depends on getting a Royal Flush which is clearly not guaranteed.

If I do get through all of the above I can sit down and plan out some more easy stuff to play through before the end of the year, or in January itself, as I have quite a few other arcade games that can be finished off with minimal effort (3D Ultra Mini Golf, Cloning Clyde etc) and a few retail titles that probably fall into the same bracket to boot.

If I can hit the first of January with 20 games lined up and ready to drop, it would be a pleasant start to the year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Completion Challenge shenanigans

I recently mentioned an upcoming Completion Challenge over on x360a.org. Whereby the goal is to officially complete (as in: have all of the achievements) as many games as possible. The idea behind it was to help people who had been in the recent gamerscore league to tidy up their gamercard's of all the crap they had been playing for points.

Now I didn't take part in said league, but I do like having a bit of motivation in order to complete a host of games I've had sat around for far too long. Most of the titles in question are actually Arcade games, ones that I bought in any one of countless XBLA sales and then never actually bothered to play. In that respect I have over 100+ games sat on my hard drive that have yet to see the light of day. But now that is about to change.

I decided to do as much prep work as I could in terms of completions, so that I could literally start up a game in January play it for (at most) five minutes and get the last achievement I needed so that it would count as a completion. Thankfully there are plenty of games that allow me to do just that and here is what I have lined up thus far:

The Expendables 2 - just need a 50 kill combo, which I can easily get right at the start of one level thanks to unlimited respawning enemies.

Shinobi - need the 300k points achievement. I've made a save right at 299,960 points so this will take me seconds to accomplish.

Virtua Fighter 2 - last achievement is for inputting a code on the menu. Will take seconds.

Fighting Vipers - as above, I just need to select a characters alternative outfit and I'm done.

Sonic the Fighters - another game where I can get an achievement via the menu and be done.

Track and Field - just need to spear a bird in the javelin event, which is pretty much the easiest thing I could have left.

I'm also working on a few retail games too and if I could snag them in January it would make things a touch more respectable. I'm hoping to do the Halo ODST Endure achievement this week - which would just leave me needing to complete one last Firefight mission to be done. This weekend I've also arranged a boosting session for Ghost Recon Future Soldier and will hopefully knock out the online DLC achievements I need - which would leave me with some single player DLC to mop up, easy enough. Finally, we have Condemned 2 which is the furthest from being done - but I would like to put in a bit of time to get it completed if I can.

Outside of those titles I have just started the original Streets of Rage 2 arcade title, plus I'm hoping to finally play through the new Sherlock Holmes game as I've had it sat around for a few months. For some crazy reason I'm also making a concerted effort to complete Texas Hold 'Em though that will require on a stroke of luck if truth be told as I will need a Royal Flush to get the last achievement so that could happen any time - or it could not happen at all. I'm hoping to get all other achievements in that game done and dusted though, and then just pray that I get lucky.

After those have been tackled it will be back to focusing on arcade games that I can chalk off fairly quickly and easily and the line up is pretty much the same as it was before. I'm looking at doing the first couple of Sonic games, plus Monkey Island 2 and the Golden Axe and Streets of Rage Vintage collections as well. After that it will come down to how much time I have - as I know there are numerous games on my account that I could blitz through if given the chance. Of course, anything I play before January will be left with one measly achievement to get - in a bid to help my in my quest for success.

Will it work? I doubt it, but time will tell.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

300k so I ramble on a bit

Well here we are again, another milestone hit and yet another example of how my personal time has been wasted spectacularly on games. Yes - I've finally managed to crawl over the line to 300k and thought I would chew on your ear for a little while to show how it all went down and what was accomplished. Try to at least feign interest or something - that would please me.

Anyway, this particular 100k has been my slowest yet really. Which is hardly surprising I suppose as it has involved far fewer easy games on the whole, in fact a lot of 360 titles have become a bit harder to max out in general thanks to an increase in DLC and developers actually taking a bit more time and effort over their lists. Sure there are still a few games that can be polished off in 5-10 hours, but that's nothing when you think about how many games could be rattled through in under three hours back in the good old days.

The game that finally pushed me over my target was Halo 4, which I finished off last night when the last required Spartan Ops chapter became available. It meant I got my 300k (just over, thanks to GRAW back in the day) plus it was my 300th completion to boot. Hurrah!

Here is how my stats looked at 100k*:

100,012 / 116,870
84/114 Retail games completed
3/10 Arcade games completed
84.06% Completion

Then at 200k*:

200,082 / 222,160
178 / 206 Retail games completed
22 / 28 Arcade games completed
89.67% Completion

And here are my stats at 300k*:

300,032 / 321,725
258 / 292
42 / 49
92.90% Completion

*All of these stats include DLC and completion is based on achievements earned.

Annoyingly I still have a whopping 20,000 points outstanding though considering that figure has stayed the same despite my overall growth it means I've actually done rather well. That is also reflected in my completion percentage which is just shy of 93% right now - a shame as I had hoped to hit 300k, 300 completions and 93% at the same time - but I made my task nigh on impossible by throwing a host of new games on my tag and, even though I finished most of them off, it meant I had to settle for just missing out.

The number of incomplete games I've got on my backlog has also grown to a hefty 41 as well but I'm hoping to whittle that number down to closer to thirty in the next couple of months. I have at least ten easy titles on there that I'm hopeful about finishing off, so it just comes down to finding the time and inclination to do so.

I've managed 80 retail completions in this 100k too which is not too shabby, plus 20 arcade completions too. Though that figure may well be higher if truth be told, as I've had to re complete a number of games due to DLC and whatnot and I'm fairly sure I used to count a game as complete when I had to initial 1k and not discount any that were missing zero point achievements, plus I used to count Madden 07 (with the US only achievement) and I've now knocked that off. Generally I am much harder on myself now and will only count a game that is 100% done and dusted on my list, and I'm happy to admit there are a few games that I own that will never get to that point.

I'm actually really happy to have hit 300k and think I've dedicated a lot of time to completing challenging games and generally tidying up my gamertag in terms of games missing the odd achievement or those requiring some DLC to complete. Certainly I've managed to romp through Lost Planet, Dark Souls, Rockstar Table Tennis, The Club, Virtua Tennis 09, FIFA 12  and two Final Fantasy games - to name but a few. Obviously there has been a bit of fodder in amongst all of that but when you consider that I've spent 800+ hours on just six games in that time frame then I've certainly not been raking in the easy points.

A list of thanks would be in order for sure and includes a lot of people who have helped me in any number of ways.

The wife - yet again my top pick, as she puts up with all of my shenanigans and tries to exhibit a bit of patience when I want to boost something at a ridiculous hour of the day. She is also my go-to buddy for all local co-op gaming too and we've gone through every single Lego game together as well as sung (badly, on my part) through a few music titles as well. Sometimes that can mean a game sits on my shelf, incomplete, for a while until she deems to play it. But that's a small price to pay - thanks babes.

Thrash Forever - aka: Rich, the man, the legend. Always ready and able for some boosting and I've probably lost count of the number of titles we've played through together. Though the last one was Halo 4, and that is the game that got me where I wanted to be. No doubt we'll be boosting plenty more tat as the days go by.

The Cosmic Duck - another member of the posse, and a guy that drags us all kicking and screaming through various shooters as he is generally the only one that doesn't die on a regular basis. Plus, he puts up with me over the top greetings while Rich just sighs at me. What a guy.

elSmitmyster and Kimi - the two other members of the UK boosting massive, though sadly I don't tend to play as many games with them as I used to. COME BACK SMIT AND TELL YOUR WOODPECKER JOKE! Still whenever I need a hand I know I can count on them.

Webb x360a - my editor and evil overseer. The man that supplies me with a seemingly endless supply of average games to review. Plus he lets me wander off to Gamescom in Germany every year and I repay him by being the only one not to run up a massive booze bill. Can't say fairer than that.
Mechahertz - or 'herbybutts' as my wife calls him (he used to be Hertzblut I believe and my wife didn't read it properly). Has jumped in and helped me out on so many occasions and often with the most random games too. Hertz is always a great boosting buddy and good for random chats to boot.

The rest - I've been helped and had help from so many people over the years. So many games played and completed that it would be hard for me to not thank everyone. My friends list is quite short (only 50 people) and its because I only keep people on there if I speak to them regularly or play games with them. Every now and then I'll have a massive cull but the same people retain a place because I know they would help me out in a pinch and I would gladly do the same.

Here's to another 100k - though I imagine it will be a couple of years away!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Completion challenge ahoy!

In January there is a Subscribers/Staff completion challenge, with the only prize being a few shiny forum awards and the like. However, I'd like to put up a decent showing and maybe even do quite well though it has to be said that the timing is fairly appalling if truth be told. In recent times I've been focusing on finishing up any number of games that were close to completion so that has left my list of games 'to do' looking a heck of a lot thinner.

With that in mind, and the fact I still want to finish off three games prior to hitting 300k, here is my plan of attack. First and foremost I'm hoping to complete Lego Lord of the Rings, Halo 4 and Halo ODST in order to get my 300 completions and then I can do plenty of prep work for the competition.

After those three are out of the way I plan on NEARLY completing as many games as possible ready for me to fire them up again in January, unlock one achievement, and snag an easy completion. There are actually a fair few games that I can potentially do this on and my quest has been helped immeasurably by a number of recent arcade games that are super easy. Here are some of the games I have in mind for my sneaky attack:

Tomb Raider Legend - just need to do the DLC, the last achievement is for completing it on Hard so I can leave my save before the last boss and finish it off in a few minutes.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier - more DLC. I'm hoping to mop up the online achievements this weekend which will only leave me with the extra single player missions to do. I plan on doing two of the three on Elite difficulty, getting all other achievements/challenges done and then I can go back, play one level, and complete the game.

Fighting Vipers - easy arcade game. Can unlock all bar one achievement in an hour, if that.

Virtua Fighter 2 - easy arcade game. Can unlock all bar one achievement in an hour, if that.

Sonic the Fighters - easy arcade game. Can unlock all bar one achievement in an hour, if that.

NIN2 Jump - can complete everything bar the survive for 3 minutes achievement, which should take me......3 minutes.

SVC Golden Axe - complete everything bar one achievement.

SVC Monster World - complete everything bar one achievement.

SVC Alex Kidd - complete everything bar one achievement.

SVC Streets of Rage - complete everything bar one achievement.

3D Ultra Mini Golf - do all achievements but leave ONE medal. Then just play that hole, pick it up and I'm done.

Cloning Clyde - complete all bar one achievement (probably leave one level to do).

Interpol - can leave one achievement or do entire game in a few hours. Either/or.

Dead Space Ignition - game takes a few hours, or just leave one achievement.

ilomilo - need to finish the game off, can leave one co-op achievement until last.

Shinobi - game takes a couple of hours or can leave one achievement.

Streets of Rage 2 - game takes a few hours or can just leave one achievement.

Secret of Monkey Island 2 - game takes a few hours, or I can leave a save right before the end.

Unbound Saga - game takes a few hours or leave one achievement.

Track and Field - game takes an hour or so, skill dependant though.

So twenty games right there but this is really just the tip of the iceberg, as I also have a bunch of Sonic games I could aim to complete and a few other games that are easy but may take a bit more time. I think if I can work on this list and get them all within an achievement of being done in the next month (very possible) then it will give me a massive day one haul to potentially drop. Not only will that give me a chance at glory, it will also be hilarious to see other peoples reactions.

You'll notice that most of these games are arcade titles, mainly because they will take far less time/effort to complete and because I have an absolute BUTTLOAD of games I've bought on XBLA and never gotten around to playing. This will help me out and give me an excuse to actually play through some of the games I've missed out on. Win win. I may also buy a few other arcade games that I know I can polish off quickly (like the Wallace and Gromit games, Duke Nukem etc) though that may come down to whether there are any good sales over the festive period. Fingers crossed.

I'm also hoping to start/finish some easy retail games I've got laid around the house as I really want to purge my collection in view of the fact that a new console is only a year or two away and, once it turns up, the chances of me playing through all of these old games will be negligible. Games I've already started (like Condemned 2) will also be high up the priority list.

With that in mind I'm going to do a general cull on my horde of retail stuff. I'll probably sell/trade in any games that I've not started that have online achievements or massive amounts of grinding to do. I'll keep any games that I can feasibly complete in single player, not to mention any RPG titles as I'm somewhat of a collector. The rest can go though, and hopefully a more manageable collection will mean I have more inclination to play the games that I choose to spare.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Halo 4 - same old or new and fresh?

I've spent a fair bit of time playing Halo 4 over the past couple of weeks. Not as much as I would have thought though, as the game is fairly short and sweet assuming you know what you are doing (and by that I mean: have played any other Halo game before). Be prepared for a few spoilers if you want to read on. Fair warning.

My first impression of the game was pretty good as I played it in four player co-op on Heroic difficulty. Playing any game in co-op is always a blast, regardless or sometimes in spite of the game itself, and this was no different. Though I will say that the on rails vehicle sections involving the Ghost (across the crumbling planet) and jet thing were frustrating due to bizarre checkpoints, insta-death areas and the fact a Ghost can seemingly flip itself on a perfectly flat surface. Good times.

Anyway, I loved the combat, the new weapons and the auto-sentry. It is also a lovely looking game and the storyline and ending were all really well done too. I will say that the game should scale to the number of players though. Having four people makes things an absolute joke on pretty much every difficulty and that's a shame. If you play Legendary difficulty solo, then a couple of Promethean Knights can be a challenge - do that same section with four guys and they are dead before you even know they were there.

I also did the first two lots of Spartan Ops in co-op as well, and we breezed through them all on Legendary. Again making the argument that a team of four pretty much breaks the campaign/Spartan Ops stuff. It's like an official cheat code or something. Having done all of that I just had the online stuff and my solo run of the campaign to finish off. By this point though I really liked what I'd seen, things were familiar enough to make me feel at home whilst offering enough new tweaks and enemies to keep me interested.

The online modes were more of a mixed bag, but that generally comes down to your own skill set and who you end up playing with. I played a bit of SWAT (as I'd enjoyed it on Reach) and found myself getting hammered by players far better than I will ever be. Some guys were ranked at level 50+ within days of the game coming out and after a month or so they will probably be the only ones left too, meaning it won't get any easier. Still I finished up a couple of matches to unlock some challenges and then moved on.

Next up was Capture the Flag, but again my team seemed unable to communicate or work together. I did well personally, defending the base and saving the flag from capture multiple times, but we lost time and again. It seems no one talks anymore and party chat has killed the ability to play team based multiplayer games with strangers. Instead it was just five people running around doing their own thing. So when you end up against a team with at least two people actually working together you get stuffed.

Bored of that I then moved onto Dominion.

Best. Mode. Ever.

Finally, here was a mode that gave you simple rules and pretty much forced you to act like a team regardless of communication. I did plenty of matches on my own but also played a bunch of games with friends with equally good results. In the space of a couple of days I went from having 1 online win to my name to having over twenty (along with the achievements) plus a bunch more challenges done.

I love that defending bases is as important as attacking them. I love building turrets and snagging power weapons when they drop in. I love plasma stunning mechs and blowing the crap out of them. I love that you can win a match in just over a minute if you are quick/good enough. I generally love this mode and, if I continue to play Halo 4 online, this is the mode I'll be going for. After a few days playing I think I've won about 75-80% of my Dominion matches and even when I've lost it has been a close run thing and still plenty of fun. Long may it continue.

After getting the online stuff done I then went back to doing my solo Legendary campaign. The game is much more challenging and interesting on your own, and tactical use of weapons often comes into play. That being said I'm not sure if it is the 'hardest' Halo ever as some people claim. I pretty much breezed through the whole game without too much trouble and even the last few sections, that contained multiple Knights, weren't too bad in my opinion. On the first few levels I even had some of the skulls on so I could complete certain challenges and it didn't make things that much trickier.

What I did find, was that if you kept most enemies at a distance (and this is especially true of vehicles like Wraiths) you can pummel them mercilessly without much response. The AI can be a bit dense, and if I used a Lightrifle and sentry combo I could easily deal with Knights from afar without fear of reprisal. It almost feels like cheating when you find a safe spot, kill everything in sight and then move on.

Having polished it off today, I was pretty happy with the game as a whole. It's great in co-op (but too easy) and playing it solo gives you much more of a challenge. The online arena is as great as ever, and I love Dominion (did I mention that?) in particular. I also like doing the challenges and Spartan Ops stuff as well, but feel like they are a touch too easy even on your own.

As it stands I'm a rank 26 in terms of my Spartan, and I should be able to get over 30 easily with the challenges (I'm currently at 19 and need at least 25) and Spartan Ops left to do. How much time I spend on the game after I complete it in a couple of weeks, depending on how hard the last Spartan Ops achievements are, will probably depend on whether my friends are playing the game or whether any future DLC turns up with achievements.

Don't get me wrong, I like the game, but I have a bunch of other titles to play too.

If I can get this bad boy done, along with Lego Lord of the Rings (another superb game), then I'll just need one of either Tomb Raider Legend and Halo ODST in order to hit 300 completions. At that point I'll be a couple of hundred points away from 300k as well. Hurrah!

Monday, November 19, 2012

An update and probable failure

Or: How I managed to ruin my goal for the year.

Yes, it seems that despite all of my good intentions I am destined to trip myself up and generally make things more difficult than they should be. Basically in order to hit my target of 93% completion before the end of the year I had to resist starting any new games and then I would be able to snag enough achievements to get it done.

Unfortunately I then went and started Halo 4, which wasn't too bad as I managed to grab 43/49 achievements in just a few days AND I'm over halfway through my solo Legendary run plus I only need 8 more challenges for that achievement too. After doing those bits I'll just need the three Spartan Ops tasks once the relevant chapters are released and the game will be done. Yay! Probably won't stay as a completion for too long as no doubt DLC will be en route - but hopefully that will be held off until I hit 300k and my game completion goal. So, Halo 4 was a blip but one that I overcame.

Until I went and started Lego Lord of the Rings. DAMN! I got an early review copy and figured there was no point going through the game twice on two separate accounts so went and threw it on my tag. I'm hoping to complete it relatively quickly but even if I do so AND complete Halo 4 and ODST (giving me the three completions I need to hit 300) I'll only be left with about 300 points to play with (before hitting 300k) and will still need 28 more achievements to get up to 93% completion. That would require me to snag ONLY achievements worth ten points and under from games I've already started. A tough ask.

Barring me scouring my list and picking out 28 such possibilities I really can't see a way to accomplish said feat. So I guess I will just have to hope I get as close as possible.

My current outstanding list (excluding titles I can't get any more achievements on) is therefore as follows:

Assassins Creed: BH – 270/1000
Battlefield 2: MC - 500/1000
Beatles Rock Band – 130/1000
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Borderlands 2 - 270/1125
Call of Duty: B. Ops - 1200/1700
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
Catherine - 35/1000
Condemned 2 - 50/1000
Disney Sing It HSM3 - 330/1000
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Fairytale Fights - 380/1000
Fallout New Vegas - 155/1655
Family Game Night - 1200/1850
Gears of War 3 - 1830/2000
Ghost Recon FS - 1000/1205
Guitar Hero Two - 320/1000
Halo 4 - 700/1000
Halo ODST – 930/1000
Ilomilo - 100/250
Kinect Adventures - 85/1000
Lego Harry Potter 2 - 200/1000
Lego Lord of the Rings - 175/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 260/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
The Sims 3 – 150/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1065/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Where's Wally - 40/200
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

A mere 37 games long - with a few that am fairly close to completing if I could just find the time. I'd like to get this list down to about 30 games (or less) by the end of the year, but I very much doubt I will find the time to do so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Slow progress

I've not had much time for gaming this week, and the time I have had has been spent playing Halo 4. That issue is only going to get worse as I now have the latest Call of Duty game sat waiting to be reviewed, so I'll need to dedicate some time to that bad boy and get it done and dusted. If I can.

I think this will be the only COD game that I don't have on my main gamertag, mainly because I only finished off the last game a couple of months ago and have no desire to invest in another series of costly DLC packs just to snag all of the achievements on offer. While the series has been great fun for the most part (though I do feel it peaked with the original Modern Warfare) it just doesn't seem to offer anything new or intriguing. Maybe the new game will change that but I have my doubts. I should also admit that one of the achievements requires you to Prestige and I cannot see myself playing the online MP long enough to bother doing so. Sorry guys - maybe next year.

Anyway, I'll probably be playing COD tonight and maybe hop onto some Halo 4 afterwards in a bid to finish up a few online challenges and maybe get to Rank 20 (sat at 19 at the moment). In fact one of the main reasons I'm happy to play Halo multiplayer over that of COD (or Battlefield, MOH or any other FPS) is primarily because I have a group of friends that love playing it with me. If they were more into another franchise then I probably would be as well, but Halo was our first love and we always hop into the fray together.

As far as my progress with the game goes I just need to win 20 online matches, complete 25 challenges and complete the campaign on Solo Legendary - then I can focus on the last few Spartan Ops missions when the required content is released in a few weeks.

I only started playing online on Monday and it has been tough going. My first three matches were all in SWAT as there was a challenge for getting pistol kills and one for headshots, so I thought SWAT was the best option. Unfortunately, sticking with the magnum made me easy pickings for long range DMR sniping and my KD ratio in those games was shocking. I only played about three games (with one win) but it didn't make for pretty reading.

Since then I've jumped into Capture the Flag matches with me success. Well, more success for me personally but not for my teams. In the four matches I played I came top of my team in three of them but I didn't pick up a single victory - losing by a single capture in EVERY game (bar one, when we got hammered). I guess getting to 20 wins will not be the walk in the park I had hoped, but if I stick to team games I should get there eventually. I certainly don't plan on hopping in FFA modes, as I suck when working as a lone wolf so wouldn't want to shame myself. I'm a solid team player though so that is the way forward.

So my next few days will consist of shooting stuff. Them maybe I'll go back to Tomb Raider Legend (boo!) and finish that off.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Good and bad

Well despite a few niggles and last minute distractions I had a fairly good weekend chipping away at my target (or targets - I seem to have so much to do all of the time, ha ha). I managed to finally sit down and polish off the last of the Bioshock 2 DLC, which I thoroughly enjoyed for the most part.

Before I did that, I actually managed to Re-up for the second time on Gears 3, so I then spent an hour or so grinding out the last five matches I needed for the online Zeta Squad achievement (for using a character in MP). I actually ended up doing pretty well in games too, which was a surprise after not playing for so long. So as well as knocking out two achievements I had a bit of fun.

Back to Bioshock 2 and The Protector Trials were a bit hit and miss, as I felt there could have been a few less missions on the whole. It just felt like you were going through the motions on some of the trials and could get away with using the same tried and tested tactics assuming you had certain plasmids. I have to say that it did give me a new found respect for the Insect Swarm ability - so if that makes the jump to Infinite then I'll be abusing the hell out of it. It pretty much stops enemies from doing much of anything and can even damage them over time at higher levels. Totally beastly. Use it with a decent gun or even some mini turrets and you are golden.

Next up was the Minerva's Den DLC which I'd heard nothing but good things about. In truth it didn't feel like a massive departure from either of the first two games' main campaigns but that is not much of a criticism. I enjoyed the plot and spent plenty of time thoroughly exploring the new area and using all of the little sisters to harvest as much ADAM as possible, I even enjoyed the quirky hidden mini-game that you have to play for an achievement. As DLC goes it is like a mini, self contained Bioshock and works really well because of it.

In between doing all of that I also found time to jump into Halo 4. This time I didn't do as much damage to my overall completion percentage as I had done with Condemned 2 (which I still need to go back to) as I managed to get three quarters of the achievements done and dusted in a fairly lengthy sitting.

I actually played the first level or so on my own, late Friday night, as I'd just finished off the Trials on Bioshock 2 and saw it was nearly midnight. So I figured I had enough time to get through the first Halo 4 campaign mission and then do the Midnight Launch achievement at the start of mission two. Thankfully it was as straightforward as I had hoped, so I then hopped into some solo Spartan Ops just to see how it fared. I did the first mission on Legendary solo and it was fairly easy stuff, plus it managed to get me up to Rank 5 in one fell swoop. I then tinkered around and got a bunch of the easy five point stuff (changed tags, names, taking a screenshot, uploading a video etc).

Next day, I joined up with Rich, Cosmic and Kimi to tackle a co-op run through on Heroic. We absolutely blitzed through the game and managed to get it done in about five hours and ten minutes (I say about - that was the exact time). With four players there was pretty much nothing standing in our way and we sailed through the whole game, even watching all of the cutscenes and finding all of the terminals as well as doing all of the level specific achievements barring two. It was a pretty thorough undertaking.

With time to spare we then jumped into four player Spartan Ops and cruised through all five of the initial missions, on Legendary no less, in under an hour. This racked up all the Spartan Ops achievements that were currently available to boot. Considering this was meant to be the 'hardest Halo to date' that certainly does not seem to hold true when it comes to co-op as there are no extra enemies when you compare it to the solo experience - which seems like an odd decision really.

I then got one of the two mission specific tasks I needed this morning, and I should be able to get the other one later on tonight (fingers crossed) plus we should all be meeting up to do the next batch of Spartan Ops which should have another achievement ready to be attained. After that I'll need to do the campaign on solo Legendary and then pay some attention to the MP in order to rank up to level 20, win 20 matches and complete 25 challenges. Nothing I can't handle I'm sure. Theoretically I could have the original 1k done by Xmas at this rate - so here's hoping.

So my current gaming will be Halo 4, Tomb Raider Legend (to finally finish the awful Anniversary DLC) and maybe Gears 3 when I have some spare time. On Gears I just need to sit down for a few hours and grind out all of the Horde fortifications for the last two achievements, that will leave me with Seriously 3.0 which I have no plans to tackle EVER. So that will be another game put to bed. Yay! Tomb Raider is pretty dull but at least I should be able to get through it given the time and inclination. Then I can focus on Halo 4 and maybe even ODST if I can find the time.

After all of that I should be there or thereabouts when it comes to hitting all of my goals for the year, but time will tell.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Taking care of business

Well, I polished off Bioshock last night - I'd actually managed to get all the way to the end of the game in just a couple of days play, so it wasn't too much of a slog after that. I just had to make it through the Proving Ground area and then beat up the last boss, which was a piece of cake really. I also got the good guy ending for saving all of the Little Sisters too, which was nice.

I have to say that, even the the ending itself is fairly brief, it is still one of my absolute favourites and is a beautiful way to cap all of the things (good and bad) that have befallen you as you make your way through Rapture. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Fresh from my success I decided to jump straight into the sequel. I've already done the original 1k worth of achievements plus the first lot of DLC to boot, so that leaves me with the Protector Trials and the Minerva's Den story to go through.

I've certainly heard good things about Minerva's Den, which is many peoples favourite stand alone DLC and is a well contained story in its own right - by all accounts. So I decided to leave that until last, so that I could finish off my return to Rapture in style. Instead I hopped into the Trials with a touch of trepidation, as I'd always believed they would be quite challenging and frustrating. Happily nothing could be further from the truth, at least so far, as I managed to get through every trial with at least an A ranking on my first attempt.

Actually, I did die on my VERY first attempt as they'd swapped the 'Use First Aid' button from where it was on the first title and I ended up dying without figuring it out. Second time around I looked at the control layout (it was on the d-pad - obviously) and it was smooth sailing from there on out.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about the trials. While it is nice to use the mix of weapons and plasmids you are allocated in a tactical way, they always feel like a weird horde mode and don't really fit in that well with the overall feel of the game. Maybe if there was a more co-op, or even adversarial, feel to things then it might have come across a bit better. Though it did give me a chance to use a bunch of plasmids that I had criminally overlooked in the campaign so that is a neat touch. I managed to get through 14/18 of the trials so far (there are also 6 bonus trials, but these don't require an A rank so should be pretty easy) with the requisite A rank or better, so I'm hoping to polish the rest off tonight and then move onto Minerva's Den at the weekend.

If I get all of that done then I can move onto Tomb Raider Legend (which I hate) and get that finished off. After that I can look at cleaning up some stuff on Condemned 2 and maybe jumping into the single player as well. We shall see. I also have Halo 4 turning up at some point so I'll be trying to make my way through that bad boy ASAP.

EDIT: Oh yes, I should probably say that in between games I'm ranking up on Gears 3 so I can get the achievement for Re-upping (Prestige, we all know it) for the second time. Easy to boost that with two pads and zero input so I figured, why not?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Return to Rapture

Bioshock is a fascinating game.

I originally played it about three or four years ago (I could look it up I suppose but really cannot be bothered) and was impressed by pretty much every facet of the game. Here was a title that eschewed the tacked on multiplayer experience, at least until the sequel, and gave you something unashamedly provocative and interesting. It may not have had the layered moral choices that had, at first, been promised but there was so much to the game that it didn't seem to matter.

My first play through saw me scour ever last nook and cranny of the game. I went into every room, found every secret, listened to all of the audio tapes and rescued every last little sister. It was a sublime experience and one that I never really thought I'd repeat as, rather like the Sixth Sense, once you know the twist then some of the magic is lost.

However, not long after my initial playthrough an extra DLC achievement was added (for completing the game on Hard with no Vita Chambers) and that has finally compelled me to return under the sea.

My second go at the game is no less interesting, though for different reasons. This time I'm attempting to get through the game as rapidly as possible, taking on a minimum amount of foes and not going anywhere that I don't need to outside of the main story.

What's really interesting is just how much of the game you can miss if you play it this way. All of the little stories hidden away in secret rooms - like the 'porn' shoot in one of the flats, or the suicidal couple that died together or Atlas' base of operations. All of these things have nothing at all to do with the overarching narrative and yet, at the same time, they ALL do. The little subplots and audio messages that you just wouldn't hear if you didn't wander off the beaten path all help to add up to a rich and varied tapestry. Sure, you can make it through the game without them but you'd be missing out if you did so.

Despite myself, I will often go a little out of my way to find audio tapes if I see them, rescue all of the little sisters and find hidden gems regardless. Sure I'm trying to make my playthrough as quick as possible but that doesn't mean it cannot still be as enthralling and entertaining as it was the first time. Piecing together only dribs and drabs of the background story makes for an interesting, if disjointed, story and the big scenes are still as gripping as ever. Meeting Ryan, speaking with Atlas, learning the cruel twist of fate that has befallen you - they all still matter and keep me hooked, even though I know what's coming next.

In that way a good game will never stop grabbing your attention, and this one certainly doesn't, it may just do it in a slightly different way the next time.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Ticking over

Just a quick post, as I really want to update the Wall of Death this lunch time, as I had a semi decent weekend of gaming to get myself back in the proverbial saddle.

After throwing caution to the wind and chucking Condemned 2 on my tag I decided against rushing through the online modes of that by myself and, instead, went back to finish off a couple of other games. I managed to get through all of the World of Keflings DLC last week and, this very morning, I finally put paid to the FIFA 12 DLC.

To be honest you get a lot of gaming for your money (at least if you are going for achievements) as beating every team in the Euro 12 DLC three times is required to complete the mosaic and get all the points. That adds up to 160+ games, even more when you include doing a proper Euro tourney as well, plus an online tournament and a challenge. It's hard to believe that FIFA 12 is now my most played game (according to raptr anyway) with over 150+ hours logged altogether. Though I only signed up to that site after doing Gears 1 and a lot of WSC 2007, so it is not entirely accurate I'm sure.

Still I'm glad to be done grinding through game after game as it has long outstayed its welcome. A shame really, as up until the DLC I'd really enjoyed FIFA 12 on the whole.

I also managed to finish off Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway last night. Many thanks go to Rich and Kimi (who would have gotten all the achievements too if BOTH of our internet connections hadn't died). The beauty of this completion is that I only needed 7 zero point achievements, so it helps greatly towards my completion percentage and total completions while still leaving me with points on the board to play with.

Talking of points on the board here is my plan of attack for now:

Bioshock - 100 points, 1 achievement, 1 completion.
Bioshock 2 - 250 points, 15 achievements, 1 completion.
Tomb Raider Legend - 185 points, 7 achievements, 1 completion.

Which would leave me at 297752GS, 92.75% completion and 298 games complete. So I'd require a further 2248 worth of points, plus 28 achievements (to reach 93%) and two more completions. So far so good.

I'm hoping to get a bunch of those points and even a completion (if I have time) out of Condemned 2. Plus, I still have Halo ODST to fall back on assuming I can find people to help me do the two four player tasks. So they could easily be my two completions if required. I could also aim to get all 28 achievements from various games I've already made a start on and THEN just play two quick XBLA games to finish off with, as I've got quite a few candidates on my tag ready to go. So on the whole things are looking fairly decent. For now.

Halo 4 comes out this week. My friends will all want to play it with me. I can't say no.

There goes my completion percentage again. Crap...........

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The 47 games of doom!

I constantly speak about the games on my to do list and it occurred to me that I have more than a few that will never be completed for one reason or another. So here is the overall list OF DOOM that I'm forever working on.

My goal is to complete the vast majority of these games but there are some titles that I can say already that I will never get around to doing. I've bolded the ones in question and will explain my reasoning thereafter.

Assassins Creed: BH – 270/1000
Battlefield 2: MC - 500/1000
Beatles Rock Band – 130/1000
Bioshock - 1000/1100
Bioshock 2 - 1150/1400
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Borderlands 2 - 270/1125
Brothers in Arms - 1000/1000 (Missing seven 0 point achievements)
Call of Duty: B. Ops - 1200/1700
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
Catherine - 35/1000
Chromehounds - 700/1000
Condemned 2 - 50/1000
Dantes Inferno - 1260/1290
Disney Sing It HSM3 - 330/1000
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Fairytale Fights - 380/1000
Fallout New Vegas - 155/1655
Family Game Night - 1200/1850
FIFA 2012 - 1150/1250
Gears of War 3 - 1765/2000
Geometry Wars - 40/200

Ghost Recon FS - 1000/1205
GRAW - 752/1000
Guitar Hero Two - 320/1000
Halo ODST – 930/1000
Hellboy: TSOE - 840/1000
Ilomilo - 100/250
Kinect Adventures - 85/1000
Lego Harry Potter 2 - 200/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 260/1000
Madden 07 - 990/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Spiderman 3 - 910/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
The Sims 3 – 150/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1065/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Where's Wally - 40/200
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

Total outstanding - 22,483GS, 47 games, 910 achievements.

A fun list right? There are plenty of time consuming and challenging tasks on my to do list, even amongst the games I am resolved to completing. Titles like WSC 07, Risen, Fallout and Supreme Commander will probably take a few hundred hours between them. Throw in some tough online tasks in Splinter Cell and Perfect Dark, plus the arduous difficulty of things like Catherine and Battlefield 2 and I have a fight on my hands. Still there is nothing on any of those lists that I feel I cannot strive to complete without the right mix of time, patience and skill. Though I am fairly confident that some of these games will sit, incomplete, until the end of time - but I haven't written them off just yet..

As for the rest.........

There are twelve games I'll never be able to complete, and will never even make the attempt to.

A few are beyond my control. The Chromehound servers were shut a while ago, so no more points will ever be possible on that game. Likewise you need a US Xbox 360 to play Scrabble on Family Game Night (plus the servers are closed too, making one Scrabble achievement off limits regardless) as well as to get the last achievement on Madden 07. That one does irk me a little, as the achievement is for importing a draft class from the college football EA title - a game that only came out in the US. Madness. Finally, the last few Hellboy achievements were supposed to be tied to some free DLC. Unfortunately the game tanked and the DLC never saw the light of day - so no one will ever complete that game.

Four are skill based. The Beatles and Guitar Hero games require superb skills on expert difficulty and I'm just not up to the task. Sure I could possibly play the game for countless hours to get that good, but even then I would need a local co-op partner of equal skill to polish them off - I don't know anyone who would be interested so why put myself through it? I tend to play those games for fun anyway rather than points. Spiderman 3 only has achievements left for getting Gold (and Silver/Bronze) on all of the Trick Races, a feat that very few have actually pulled off. The controls and races are supremely broken and the times required have basically been set by developers. With 48 races all required flawless runs with zero mistakes - you can count me out. Finally, Geometry Wars, which is just brutally hard until you get that one perfect run. I do dabble with the game every now and then but cannot see myself ever getting it done. Ah well.

After that we have a bunch of time sinks that I'm really not prepared to grind through. COD: WAW requires me to get maximum prestige for the last two achievements - no chance of that as I hate the MP and it is a minefield of hackers now anyway. GRAW requires hundreds of hours and countless Xbox accounts in order to rank and de-rank your accounts and get up the leaderboards. Plus, the top spots are often occupied by people who constantly boost to stop others getting the achievements anyway. Not worth it. Dantes Inferno is partially time and skill based, as you have to complete 25 supremely tough arena challenges (15 solo, 10 co-op) and they take up way more time and effort than I am prepared to put in. Finally we have Gears 3. I never expected to do either 1 or 2, but I eventually caved and got them chalked off. With this one though I have no intention of buckling. I aim to get to 1900 points and then leave Seriously 3.0 alone as it is a total chore and the only people who do have it are those boosters that have been prepared to grind it to death over a number of months. No thanks.

So of the 47 games I can complete (hopefully) at least 35 of them, and of that list there are probably about 16-20 that are fairly straightforward with a minimum amount of effort required. So here is to having the time and inclination to get them done.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Well I went right ahead and unlocked that SKX achievement on Condemned 2, which wiped out practially all of the progress I'd made towards getting 93% completion and put me in a bit of a jam in terms of getting everything I want to do actually done. What a fool.

Still when the chance to grab a notoriously tricky achievement crops up it's better to get it out of the way and then you don't have to worry about it further down the line. A friend has offered to help me get the two ranked achievements as well (as the online mode is a wilderness) so that will mean I can pretty much mop up the rest of the game solo. I really enjoyed the first Condemned back in the day so I'm curious what the second one will have to offer.

I suspect it will have gone down a (slightly) more mainstream route and not be as creepy or bewildering as the first. I could be wrong though, so here's hoping for more of the same. Assuming I can invest some time into blitzing through all of the multiplayer modes on my own then I could start the single player as early as next week, and with a decent guide for the hidden items etc then I should be able to make pretty good progress. Fingers crossed.

At least I've now chalked off A World of Keflings and Rockstar Table Tennis, so that is two more completions in the plus column. As things stand I'm at 297,117GS, with 293 completions and a 92.50% completion ratio.

That leaves me needing a further 2883 points, 7 completions and 61 achievements to hit all of my targets. Oh joy......

So out of my previous targets I'll have the following (added Brothers in Arms):

Bioshock - complete Brass Balls DLC - will give me 100g, 1 achievement and 1 completion.
FIFA 12 - complete Euro 12 DLC - will give me 100g, 3 achievements and 1 completion.
Halo ODST - complete firefight and Endure - will give me 70g, 4 achievements and 1 completion.
Tomb Raider Legend - complete DLC - will give me 185g, 7 achievements and 1 completion.
Bioshock 2 - complete DLC - will give me 250g, 15 achievements and 1 completion.
Brothers in Arms - complete 0 point tasks - will give me 0g, 7 achievements and 1 completion.

That's a grand total of 705 points, 6 completions and 27 achievements so I'll then be at (theoretically) 297,822GS, 299 completions and 24 achievements to hit my goal. So I'll still have 2178 points to grab from games I've already started in order to get those 24 achievements, and hopefully I can snag another completion along the way. The real issue is that Halo 4 is imminent, and that is likely to complicate matters even further. Perhaps my goal of having a lofty completion percentage is just going to have to be strewn by the wayside, but I sincerely hope not. I'm fairly hopeful that if I can invest a fair bit of time into Condemned 2 then I can salvage my initial target.

It just goes to show that I think about this kind of thing way too much and that, while I certainly play games for fun, I also like to set myself little challenges and benchmarks as well. It's something I've done my whole life, even going back to my Spectrum, NES and SNES days, so I see no reason to stop now that I actually have a fully implemented system (achievements) that helps me take that OCD to the next level.

An era of easy games, and Dark Souls

I drafted this piece nearly a year ago, as I was playing through Dark Souls, with the intention that it would have been a starting point for a website article. The idea never really got off the ground but it occured to me that I could post it up here so it wasn't a total waste. Enjoy.
Dark Souls is a relic of a bygone era, a game that demands just as much in terms of patience and persistence as it does in terms of skill. For most gamers it seems like such a challenge is simply too much, and it certainly didn’t come as much of a surprise when I spotted pre-owned copies of the game on store shelves only a day or so after its launch. The strategy guide was on prominent display too, and when I displayed an interest the manager gave me a wry smile and said that I’d need all of the help I could get. Dark Souls has done well for itself, but just how many people will ever make it through to the end credits seems to be less certain and that’s a shame. The real question though is probably one that can be asked on a broader scale: do gamers want difficult games anymore?

Personally speaking, I’m a bit of a relic myself in gaming terms. With my first gaming machine being the almighty Spectrum 128k, which had roughly the same capabilities as a dubious Mario gaming watch from a few years later. Games at the time were plentiful, cheap and usually as hard as nails. Seriously, if you know anyone that “completed” Jet Set Willy then I’d be eminently surprised. The same could be said of titles at your local arcade, where the challenge was less about reaching some mythical end screen and more about setting a high score that didn’t just prop up the ass end of the scoreboard. Back in the day games by their very nature were challenging and had to be so to get the best out of players and keep them coming back for another go.

Obviously, in terms of difficulty, the whole issue is entirely subjective as a game that may well stymie one player for months could last another, more experienced gamer, mere days. However, can you honestly think of a recent game that was so difficult you literally couldn’t complete it, a game that made you give up in frustration and never go back? The answer is probably no, as most people have no problem getting to the end of the majority of modern games. It’s certainly apparent that changes in the basic technology involved in making and playing games may well have played an important role in this trend, not to mention the changing make up of gamers themselves.

At the moment you can be knee deep in a game, swatting aside your foes as your press towards your ultimate goal. Suddenly the greatest force of evil known to man rears its head and says, “Put down that controller, or we’ll be late!” Yes, the wife is going to drag you off somewhere and there is naught that can be done, other than saving your progress of course. Such a simple mechanic and yet probably the single biggest reason that most games seem that much easier compared to their older brethren. Older titles had to be completed in one sitting, and while this usually made them shorter as a result it also meant they had much more tension and being down to your last life, energy bar or quarter actually meant something. Nowadays if you bite the big one, then you’re free to restart at your last save or checkpoint with no strings attached.

Without a sense of ultimate failure then where is the tension? Even playing a game on the hardest difficulty merely becomes a case of trial and error until you find the right route or merely get lucky in some way. Notable examples do exist, like the limited save features on Dead Space 2 or Hitman, or the brutal difficulty of games like Lost Planet and Ninja Gaiden where mere persistence will not be enough. However, these games have seemingly become the exception to the rule and when it comes to previews/reviews the sheer difficulty present is often mentioned above and beyond any other feature of the game, as if it was some kind of freakish, rarity to be examined scientifically from a distance rather than enjoyed. Instead of welcoming a challenging game, players often shy away from it and spend their time on something else.

Could this be down to the way games themselves have evolved though? Older titles, even stretching towards the NES era, used to just give you the basic controls in the manual and then throw you in at the deep end. Players had to rely on their own intelligence to survive, which often meant grasping the rules of the world they were pitted against and then reacting accordingly. Nowadays, even the biggest game world seems to have some kind of tutorial attached to it. Be it the most flagrant on screen pop ups that tell you which button is punch (usually the button you’ve been using to punch for five minutes) or the slightly sneakier route of having a short intro level or dungeon, that guides you through the mechanics without putting you in any extreme danger. With so many costs and implications attached to putting a game into the world it seems that developers cannot risk alienating people from the get go, annoying them with tutorials maybe, but not putting them off entirely.

Players now can rightly expect to complete pretty much any title that is set down in front of them, most of the time without much in the way of external guidance, and that is pretty much down to the way the market for games has developed. Old arcade titles and computer games were much cheaper to produce, and it wasn’t uncommon for entire titles to be developed by just one or two people. Now though entire teams are dedicated to just one title and the cost of failure is that much higher. Companies can no longer take the risk of making a game too challenging, as it is more than likely to be a stumbling block towards future sales, instead they have to provide players with an experience that balances the experience with the rewards on offer.

As the market for games has grown, so too has the make up of that market. The so called hardcore market of gamers has been joined by an equally large portion of players that simply may not have the time, skill or inclination to persist with a title that introduces you to the Game Over screen at an early juncture and then keeps it as your most constant companion. Similarly, as the average age of gamers continues to grow then those people that had a lot more free time to play games at a young age will find themselves with far more responsibilities in terms of work and family as they get older, thus meaning that an easier and shorter game is much more welcome as it will allow them to have the same experience without pouring in countless hours. 

Developers find new ways to lure in these gamers, by adding in tutorials, checkpoints and co-op play in a bid to keep their interest until the credits roll. Then a wealth of potential side-quests, online modes and collectibles can provide the extra content that the lack of difficulty takes away. So when the inevitable sequel rolls around, players will be more interested in picking up a game that has a story they are familiar with, controls they enjoyed and a more comfortable difficulty level than a game they just a few hours into and then got no further.

From a business perspective a decrease in difficulty is exactly what the market demands, as more and more people become drawn to the console market but do not have the time or disposable income to spend on a wide range of titles. However, such a move may also take away some of what makes games such an interesting medium. Instead of being challenged throughout a title, you are practically taking part in an interactive movie, with titles becoming increasingly linear and similar. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that used to come from completing a title is simply replaced by a sense of “what’s next?” as gamers move onto the next big thing. Setting that high score or beating that almost impossible game are rapidly becoming things of the past, as if you’ve completed the latest Call of Duty or Gears title then you can safely assume that the vast majority of other players have too, and in half the time it took you, with one hand tied behind their back.

Dark Souls is a relic, but it is also a relic that drew me into its world for three weeks and over a hundred hours of my life. A relic that made me celebrate every hard fought boss battle, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact it took me ten attempts to finally emerge triumphant. A relic that is sadly becoming a much rarer breed in today’s marketplace of quick thrills and simplistic gaming. Not every game needs to be this hard but, thankfully, it serves as a pertinent reminder of why some games should be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back to normal

Well, it all got a bit preachy and strange for a minute there but sadly it is back to the everyday for now. I do actually enjoy debating gaming related issues and often feel that certain segments of the gaming press take themselves far too seriously. Such is life........

Anyway, I have been doing a few reviews recently so feel free to check them out (see the lovely links to the right - CLICK THEM, CLICK THEM NOW!).  I'm starting to think that Kinect dance games are rather like Indian food - you never get a bad one really. Seriously, I've never had a bad Indian meal - ever, from anywhere. Likewise most dance games work because, well, it's probably harder for them not to.

On the flipside it seems that making a good FPS is getting harder than ever, at least judging by 007 Legends and MoH: Warfighter. A couple of more bland and uninspired offerings you will be hard pressed to enjoy. Sure they have their moments but they are generally lost in a pea soup of tired design. Ho hum.

Aside from reviewing games that I have no further intention to play (my backup and wife's account gained nearly 2k in combined gamerscore, ha ha) I've also been chipping away at the master plan I'd previously laid out.

I'm thirty six games away from FINALLY being done with FIFA 12 and its tedious DLC. The whole notion of collecting mosaic pieces got old a long time ago - I mean they could have at least made it into some sort of competition or league structure, but noooooo........gits.

I've also managed to blitz through most of the Keflings DLC as well, so I should have that bad boy done with in an hour or so's play. Hopefully they don't churn any more achievements out for that one, but as it's at a weird 450 points so far I feel they may well cash in some more.

Against my better judgement I've also made an attempt to get started on the zero point achievements in Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway. I wasn't going to bother, but as it will be seven achievements (for zero gamerscore) and another completion I thought, why not? Just need one more person to help out and then I can get another game done with.

However, all of my good work may well be undermined - by ME. As I've been chipping away at the SKX achievement on Condemned 2. It requires me to kill nine unique players who have previously snagged the Serial Killer (1,000 MP kills) achievement. Now I've done precisely zero other achievements on the game, so it doesn't show up in my stats yet. However, after a good weekend of begging people to help and joining a profitable boosting session, I have 8/9 kills - with the last one already lined up. Oh dear.

This means that once that achievement pops all of my previous work will need re-evaluating. Brothers in Arms would help me out in that regard and I think I should still be able to hit all of my targets but we shall see. Here's hoping.

It also occurred to me that Halo 4 is incoming and my friends are going to want us to start up the campaign and so on almost immediately. So that will be another speedbump on my quest to get everything tidied away by the end of the year. Curses. I'm hopeful that I can rejig things enough to get everything done and dusted but it is going to be more of an effort than I previously thought.

Ah well, at least it will make life interesting. Bring on the pain.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bribery, twitter and games journalism

The last couple of days have been fairly interesting to say the least, especially if you follow a lot of games writers and editors on twitter. Suffice it to say the industry has not exactly covered itself in glory but some of the perceived ideas and outcomes seem to have blurred the lines. Many people have since jumped on the bandwagon and it seems strange that the original issues are now just being diluted in a feverish quest for page hits.

Personally I'm not here to take sides as I'm very much on the periphery of the gaming industry, I focus solely on writing reviews and previews for two websites (that are owned by the same company) and outside of that remit I have very little else to do with the industry at large. I don't go to awards shows, I don't attend PR events and I don't meet up with other writers on a very regular basis. The only time this actually happens is when I get shipped off to Gamescom each year and, while I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and have a good time, the main focus is always on trying to get the best information and articles I can for the people that read my stuff.

Oh, did I mention I don't get paid for this? I probably should before I get tarred with seemingly the same brush that most people do. Heck, I don't even get sent review copies for all of the games that we cover. In the past, when the site was starting out, I would pretty much buy every game that I needed to review. That statistic then probably got to about 50/50 in the last couple of years and then, in the last year, we have finally reached a standing where review copies provide the bulk of our material.

Anyway, let's break this down into what happened, the fallout and my ramblings (seeing as no one else is really answering the supposed issue at all).

What happened?

A week or so ago the GMA's happened. It's basically an awards show, where a bunch of publishers/stores/sites etc sponsor a shindig to reward the best publications and writers. People get to submit their nominations and so on in advance which is then whittled down to a shortlist and then a separate panel votes on the winner. Easy.

Now as part of this event a PR company was running a competition where people could win a free PS3 by retweeting a hashtag. Some people took exception to that idea and accused anyone taking part of having a massive conflict of interest. Cue a twitter row and then a bevy of articles.

As people probably know, or people who choose to read this anyway, the main cause of this furore was an article by Robert Florence over at Eurogamer (here). That's a link to the full article prior to the cuts, but more on that in a moment.

In the article Rob (or Rab if you prefer) takes a rather broad swipe at the strange, almost symbiotic, relationship between the gaming press and gaming PR. He does this by pointing out that there is often a fine line between having a merely good relationship and one that is far too close for comfort. However, ever since then there seems to have been some kind of meltdown. Part of which is brought on by Rob himself and part by other people.

Now, when you are writing an article about the possibility of corruption in the gaming industry it's a topic that is inevitably going to stir up some controversy. Rob knew that going in, heck most of his articles on Eurogamer have stirred the hornets nest in one way or another. That's what he does and that is exactly why he was hired. To say otherwise would be foolishly naive.

However, what Rob also seems to do is take an active delight in what he writes about. It is easy to say "well someone had to say it" but there are ways and means to get your point across without appearing to victimise individuals. On the one hand you have Rob saying this (I've added the emphasis):

"I want to make a confession. I stalk games journalists. It's something I've always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of games journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won't name them here, because it's a horrible thing to do, but I'm sure some of you will know who they are."

It's an issue we may well be aware of. Heck even in my small time capacity I'm aware of it. People who write about games purely and simply to get free shit. You only have to be at E3 or the so called 'industry only day' at Gamescom to see that. So called writers wandering around with whatever they can carry and doing very little in the way of work or journalism. But to say that is an industry wide endemic may be a touch off the mark - those people, by and large, are amateurs. People that write for their own little website and have somehow managed to wangle their way into an event they should never really be a part of. I'm sure there are people in the 'serious' side of games journalism that have been given, and accepted, free stuff too but it all comes down to how they act. If they get a bunch of swag and give it away to their readers, stuff it in a drawer or never even mention it to anyone - have they been comprised? Has their integrity been shattered in some way? I doubt it.

The problem with Rob's article is that, precisely before making his statement not to name names, he did exactly that. Blurting out the names of two writers so they could be held up for scrutiny (I don't really include Geoff Keighley as he, or his show, are quite clearly sponsored by a variety of companies). Does it really matter that when questioning whether they were 'corrupt' or not he added the proviso, "I'm sure she isn't"? Not really, because you can already see that he has made up his mind, and the whole gist of the article is to help the reader make up their mind too. These people were WRONG and are PROBABLY corrupt. He could have made the self same point without naming any names (as he stated) but chose not to. He chose that probably knowing what the fallout would be.

The article in general merely scratched the surface of its potential argument while throwing two scapegoats out to dry. Is tweeting a hashtag to enter a competition advertising? Yes it is. Is doing so somehow completely overriding all of your journalistic integrity? Unlikely.

Likewise he seems to state that while people can be games journalists they cannot also be fans of said games. If you get a new game and tweet about being excited to play it (maybe with a picture - you devil). WRONG. If you announce your excitement of upcoming games. WRONG. If you use a backdrop from one of your favourite game series. WRONG. Only he never states exactly why these things could be wrong. Are we meant to assume that all games writers cannot possibly be critical of their favourite series? Or would it be safe to assume that they could be even more critical? Who knows.

The first thing I see when I notice someone has a Tomb Raider backdrop is not that it's an advert, merely that said person is probably a fan of the game - and the same could be said for the vast majority of people in the same situation. Could it be seen as an advert? Well it's possible, but probably more possible if you were writing an article about game industry corruption. For the average person it's just a picture and they move on.

Entering a competition, or defending said competition, are hardly the bastions of corruption they are made out to be. Perhaps if Rob had actually gone into some depth about grossly expensive press trips, PR days out (that sometimes have nothing to do with the games in question) and a stream of swag sent to writers doors then he would have had a point. Though again that would only be true if he could somehow prove that these nefarious deeds had ever been reciprocated by the people attending them. Had bad games got good scores or received positive coverage? We don't know and neither does that article, as it makes a generalisation without having the facts to back them up. A hashtag competition, entered by more PR people than actual journos if truth be told (a fact conveniently overlooked) is hardly the starting point of a slip slide into hell.

The general thrust is a world where PR control all games writers which couldn't be further from the truth. But more on that later.

What happened next (aka: THE INTERNET!)

Then the inevitable happened. Someone asked for the comments to be removed, Eurogamer obliged and Rob resigned. An unfortunate chain of events, but that was nothing compared to what would follow.

As ever with the internet, and games writers in general, something had to be done. So a flurry of articles and opinions started to form. People had already gotten testy over the hashtag competition itself, so with the resulting article being censored now came the cries of freedom of speech and so on.

Industry veterans like Ben Kuchera and Stu Campbell gave their five cents and were queueing up (along with sites like Killscreen, Forbes and the rest) to try and interview Rob to get his angle on the events that transpired and how badly he had been treated. The leading voice amongst these people was John Walker (Rock, Paper, Shotgun) a writer held in high esteem amongst the community.

They came out and said it was appalling that Rob had been fired (he actually quit) and laid the blame solely on the shoulders of a writer named in the article who had asked for the comments, questioning their morals, to be removed. Interestingly none of them even so much as mentioned the second writer whose name was also removed - strange that.

Now I agree with freedom of the press, as having the right to quote and respond to people is vital in society. However, yet again it is worth noting that the article in question would have been absolutely fine with names omitted - the reason they were not was to simply get a response. Which begs the question of why everyone was shocked when that is exactly what happened.

Now John, to his credit, was less interested in the competition and all of that nonsense. His main concern was the fact that another writer had been censored, in his view unjustly, and that the discussion of PR in games was being ignored. He has some valid comments if truth be told but, for me, the only mistake anyone ever made here was actually stating publicly that they wanted the comments removed. If this had all happened behind the scenes with no public gallery then it may have worked out much differently.

(Though I will point out that John also seems to believe that the article in question would have had minimal impact on either of the two people mentioned. I wonder if John would have, after reading that piece, ever consider hiring the two writers in question should the opportunity arise? Or would his view have been tainted by Rob's article - again, it comes back to perception and intent.)

No, my issue with the posts by John Walker (and the numerous other people trawling this affair for a few hits - at least John kept it to his own blog) was the quite obvious impact it inevitably had. The GMA awards, the article itself and the censorship of it were actually fairly well confined to begin with - with most of the flare ups only being between PR and games industry people, plus a number of disgruntled Eurogamer users.

Then articles sprung up in sites across the globe, and every article suddenly had a certain writers name attached to it, blaming her solely for Rob's departure (again, for the back rows, he resigned - admittedly he did so on principle but it was still his own choice). Comments boards were outraged and people were throwing up and retweeting links to articles decrying her behaviour.

Then the internet happened.

People started bombarding her and her employer with insults, abuse and the rest. They started to trawl through her history and try to find any hint of possible corruption and conflict of interest in her actions. In short: the trolls emerged. They all point with glee about the fact the writer in question is now trying to remove any issues from her resume and so on. Considering most observers state this should have been done anyway then how can her doing WHAT YOU WANTED now be a source of derision?

After a round of wailing and gnashing of teeth we had the obvious attempts to calm things down. Rob Florence stated that he didn't endorse insults, John Walker informed us that anyone who said certain things should chop off their hands. And yet.........

John Walker made a few quotes that I find especially interesting:

"Those are the two things she did wrong. Both, I believe, were stupid. The latter, I believe, was despicable."

"And now, thanks to the magic of the Streisand Effect, which (she) undoubtedly brought down on herself."

"(She) absolutely should be condemned for her actions this morning."

The word despicable, for me, is usually reserved for the worst the world has to offer. So in this instance I find it unbelievably harsh, to then follow that up to say that the writer in question has brought this all on themselves and should be condemned, well......

When John Walker (who has 7000+ followers and who knows how many fans on RPS) decries someone in a very public way can he honestly say he didn't expect to send some bile her way? Can he honestly stand back and say 'oh, I didn't think that would happen - it's awful.' I rather doubt it. The same can be said for Rob himself who must have known the impact his article would have on the two people he named even then. All of the other public, and iconic, gaming figures too must know how the internet works. When someone in a position of authority, someone that people look up to, points a finger and tells their rabid fans how awful someone is - what do they think would be the outcome? Multiply that by all of the other senior writers and websites that leaped to Rob's defence and the torrent of abuse was inevitable.

Again, I have no issue with people having the discussion. Talking about the effect of PR. Talking about the state of the industry as a whole. It's the only way we can all grow and learn. After all gaming is a big business now, but it's still a very small place to work - so when people start to call one another out, publicly, then the end result is going to be exactly what happened which is one writer being set upon by the rabid fans of countless websites that are somehow emerging as paragons of virtue in all of this. Wrongly in my opinion.

These writers may well be respected and may well have valid points but their actions have merely served to exacerbate an already bad situation. Saying someone had 'brought this on themselves' while standing next to the fire with a handful of coal is about as far from the moral high ground as you can get.

PR vs Writers

In my opinion the real problem with Rob's article and the subsequent defence of it by numerous people, including John Walker, is the seeming misunderstanding of the influence PR has on the gaming industry at large. While they are constantly slapping each other on the back and saying a discussion about the chummy relationship needs to occur you have to look at the facts.

We live in an age of gaming magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs, podcasts and video channels, the number of outlets for gaming information is frankly staggering and the ease with which a new site can pop up can't be ignored. Back in the day gaming news was purely down to magazines, or newspapers, and previews and reviews were held in much higher regard mainly because they just weren't as regular or as mainstream. It wouldn't surprise me if opinions could easily be bought back then - as it would have much more of an impact due to the confined nature of the readership and medium. Now though?

Well who do you bribe?

Serious question.

If you make a terrible game and pass it onto the PR company to 'sell' then there is only so much they can do. They can invite writers to press junkets, hold fun days with swanky cars and C-list celebrities, heck they can send out a novelty sausage with the games name emblazoned down one side. But that will not stop the game from being bad.

The reviews will roll in and they will still be negative. Metacritic and the like, for all of their faults, quickly highlight any anomalies and shows a fairly reasonable representation of how well a game has performed. So are the PR going to try and put money/games/consoles in the pockets of every writer they can find in order to change their mind? Of course not. But they have to play the game, they have to sell that product as if it's the best thing in the world and, guess what, the writers will smile, be nice and make small talk. Then the game will get a bad review anyway. For people to believe that a free meal and a game would be enough to make people sell out is nothing short of ludicrous.

With so many sites pushing out so much news then they will be eager to lap up exclusives, accept review copies of games to get content up early and attend events to get preview material. It's in the sites best interests to get that information as well as the PR's interests to put it out there. People will gradually gain contacts, make friends even, meet new writers and generally become more familiar with each other - but that is not down to some nefarious deal or self-serving interest - it's simply human nature. If you talk to people on a regular basis then the walls come down, and that's the same in any walk of life. Some journos and PR don't get on at all, but they keep things professional, others get on like best friends and can STILL keep things professional.

The GMA's are often pointed at with derision, as some kind of corporate buy in where peoples pals get rewarded and the true grafters suffer. But is that really the case? People who are good writers win and the rest do not. Plus, if it weren't for having corporate sponsors who would host such an event at all? No one, and then the community at large would miss out. The GMA's aren't for the readers, that's where people seem to be confused, they are for the writers. So if they want to get together and celebrate the best among then, let their hair down and sing bad karaoke - so what? I mean, is just attending a sponsored award show going to change how they write or view games. Does anyone actually believe that? No - it's back to this mythical issue of perception.

PR and journalists don't have to be rivals, as Rob seems to think, as they can maintain a friendly relationship and still get their jobs done. They could be worst enemies and also still get their job done - but it would be a damn sight harder on all involved.

The real issue here then is perception (what a word). The perception that PR have the keys to the kingdom, the perception that writers can be bought. Well here is the final newsflash.

It doesn't matter to readers.

It doesn't matter because some readers believe that anyway. The presence of press events and freebies doesn't fuel their opinions, just like the lack of those things wouldn't diminish their beliefs either. I gave a game 70% and people actively took to the sites forums to say that I'd been bought by rival publishers to give a competitor a low score. So not only do readers believe we are corrupt, they also believe that we are there to be bought by rival companies, as if review scores come down to who pays the most in a strange tug of war.

Readers build up a connection with writers, magazines and sites that they like, and trust, they also have the capacity to form their own opinions about games and the content in front of them as well. Some of them may perceive bias and contention in an article, but the majority will assume (as will probably be the case) that it was written as honestly as possible.

In short it's in everyones best interests for their to be a cordial PR/writer relationship, as it ensures that readers get good, timely, content on a regular basis and everyone wins. There are always going to be exceptions to every rule, and I'm sure sometimes people do cross the line and do so wilfully - but to tar the whole of the industry with the same brush is a colossal leap of imagination. Similarly it would be nice to sit down and discuss things in a calm rational manner - but the way to set that in motion is not to write a name and shame piece, nor is it to label people as despicable and set loose a horde of trolls in their direction. Whether that was your intention or not.

The games industry is, I believe, in a much better place than it used to be. Sure there is a plethora of PR but most sites, which is to say most well known sites, handle them professionally and keep their conduct above reproach. Does entering a competition cross the line? I don't think so, others do, but the real question should be: are most games writers corrupt? And the answer would be emphatically no.

What have we learnt?

In truth, probably nothing. In a few days everything will be as it was with only the careers of a number of writers being any worse for wear. It's true that the original issue may have been lost, but had it been handled in a subtler way (or at least with some editorial restraint) then we could have been having a rational conversation.

I love games. I love writing about games, talking about them and even anticipating them. So when people say the whole industry is corrupt and start to quickly point fingers at one another, form battlegrounds and make a mess - it upsets me, it upsets what I thought the people around me stood for.

Hopefully everyone involved will move forward and bridges will be rebuilt, I doubt it in some cases, but frankly for all of this I have still met some of the best people I know thanks to games. So I have you take my incoherent ramblings in good faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The to do list

My general plan of attack, for as long as I can reasonably be expected to stick to it, will be the same for the next two months. I'm hoping to hit 300,000 gamerscore by the end of the year, as well as getting my completion percentage over 93% and having a minimum of 300 full completions (that's all DLC etc) to boot.

While it all sounds very simple, in practice it will require a fair bit of discipline and foresight.

As it stands I'm at 296,727GS, 40 achievements away from 93% (98 away from 93.50% which is my real goal for now) and I have 291 completed games.


That means I'm going to need a further 3263 points from 98 achievements that will also let me finish off 9 games. Sounds impossible right? Well thankfully I have a bunch of games that are mere DLC away from finally being complete so it is, theoretically, possible.

Here is the scheme:

Bioshock - complete Brass Balls DLC - will give me 100g, 1 achievement and 1 completion.
Rockstar Table Tennis - complete Savant - will give me 80g, 1 achievement and 1 completion.
FIFA 12 - complete Euro 12 DLC - will give me 100g, 3 achievements and 1 completion.
Halo ODST - complete firefight and Endure - will give me 70g, 4 achievements and 1 completion.
Tomb Raider Legend - complete DLC - will give me 185g, 7 achievements and 1 completion.
Bioshock 2 - complete DLC - will give me 250g, 15 achievements and 1 completion.
World of Keflings - complete DLC - will give me 250g, 9 achievements and 1 completion.

So those seven games will net me a grand total of 1035g, 40 achievements and seven completions - putting me damn close to my target. In effect I'll be at 93% by this stage so the only thing that matters then is completing two more games in the 2,228 points I will have left to me while at the same time trying to get as many achievements as possible from games I've already started.

The games I had in mind to achieve this will probably be:

LEGO Harry Potter 2 - for 800g, 34 achievements and 1 completion.
LEGO Star Wars - for 740g, 28 achievements and 1 completion.
Disney Sing It HSM3 - for 670 points, 13 achievements and 1 completion.

These are probably the easiest three games I've left uncompleted on my tag and, assuming I can persuade the other half to play them with me, I should be able to plough through them in double quick time.

Now this is all very well, again in theory, but despite the seemingly small amount of achievements from the first batch there is actually a substantial time investment. I will have to complete Bioshock again from start to finish, play through about 100 matches of FIFA, get four people together for a session of Halo Firefight on Heroic and get through over half of the first Tomb Raider title. Not to mention the hours required for the Bioshock 2 and Keflings DLC which will probably not be that quick. Egads.

Throw completing two LEGO games into the mix and this is a real time sink and the odds of me getting it all done by the end of the year is fairly slim. Thankfully I'm on the cusp of finishing Table Tennis once and for all (just an hour or so to go) and I've already made a start on FIFA, Halo and Tomb Raider. I'll probably then try and rush through the DLC portions of my quest before tackling a speed run of Bioshock. If I get all of that done, in a reasonable amount of time, then I can move on to the LEGO games and hope for the best.

The real problem in all of this is that my stats for this task are entirely dependant on me not starting any other new games. A fact that may well prove impossible due to the fact I have a rental copy of Sherlock Holmes sat at home and the fact I've been gearing up to tackle Condemned 2 (mainly as I have two copies of the game and want to get rid of them). I suspect that I will inevitably start playing something new, which will mean a direct impact on my completion percentage. Ho hum!

Still with the right preparation and willpower I'm hoping to get somewhere close. We shall see. My overriding goal is simply to get rid of some old games, thin the herd of easy games I've never started and generally move onto some big titles that I may have missed. I also really want to try Dishonored and X-Com but have deliberately put off buying them until I know I'll actually play them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No pain, no gain

Ever since I decided to finish off the online aspects of Rockstar Table Tennis I've also been dedicating time to getting the Savant achievement. This basically requires you to complete the game on the hardest difficulty with EVERY character. Now you can replay a game every time you lose, so it's not like you need a faultless run in order to progress, but it is still pretty damn taxing.

For anyone who hasn't played the game before, it's fairly brutal. Even on the lower difficulties some of the characters are flat out annoying as hell to beat. The fact they can return smashed shots for an instant winner is a joke and, as you progress, they generally become more irritating. You can combat this to some sense by messing with the options - so you only need to win 7 points to win the match, plus you can alter it so you can serve five times in a row to help you out. Another cute trick is the fact certain character can hit service aces by standing in set spots and serving the ball at near perfect power/spin.

Still, even with those odds in your favour you can expect a bit of a slog. There are two characters who can practically never be Aced (Mark and Jung Soo) and they back that up by being tough to beat. I've also noticed that when using certain characters they all have a chance of being more or less good at serving aces, so some of them might breeze through everyone but the above two while others can barely ace anyone - and even if they do it is unreliable at best.

My main tactic thus far has been to incorporate a kind of death grip on my pad. Using the soft shot option (hold LB) along with a drop shot close to the net (down and left on the LS plus Y+B). As you can imagine, executing this move time and time again can lead to some serious stress on your hands, and my wrists have actually started to feel sore while playing the game in the last few days. I try to mix things up when I can, especially when I have a full focus meter, by using X+A when my opponent returns a slow shot to my right side. I can then spin the ball across to the left of the table and force them wide enough to bury a return to the right. Hopefully. In fairness I just pick up points however I can, forcing them to hit the net, lob up an easy smahs or whatever and I've been pretty good so far.

I've managed to complete nine of the eleven players (including a run on default settings with Jung Soo) and I'm three games from making that ten, with Juergen. That will just leave me with Jesper to do - which is ironic as I'd already completed an expert run with him years ago but wiped my save. Maybe the game will recognise that he has already been through that hell, but I doubt it. Should have this knocked out by the weekend.

I know my aching hands will thank me for it.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Well after finally updating my completion list I kind of wish I hadn't bothered as I've only polished off a trifling 27 games in the year to date. Considering I normally go for 52 (or one a week, if you will) throughout the year then it's fairly obvious that I've been slacking.

It looks amazingly unlikely that I'll hit my target by the end of the year unless I suddenly become a millionaire and can spend a few weeks purely sitting around in my pants playing games (I don't actually do this, by the way). Hopefully I can at least edge my way up to 40 or so games complete as I'm on the verge of finishing off another 5-6 games so that will be something. I suppose it comes down to the fact I have spent my time on time consuming titles and games with a ton of DLC. I've also not played too many super quick and easy games this year, or arcade titles for that matter, so I suppose that will have made an impact too.

Suffice it to say that I need to pull my finger out and hopefully get myself up to 300 completions total, 300k in gamerscore and a completion percentage of over 93% by the end of the year. Otherwise I'll be a touch miffed.

In a bid to kickstart said progress I have been playing Rockstar Table Tennis in order to snag the last couple of achievements I need. I'm hoping to team up with a friend to get the 50 Online Tournaments task out of the way this weekend, then I just need to complete the game on the highest difficulty with every player. Easy right?

Not really.

This game is pretty challenging even at the lower difficulties and even utilising a serving trick, that lets you get an ace from certain positions every time, only helps so far. This trick doesn't work against every player so some form of skill has to come into play. Thankfully I'm getting moderately good at the game now so I'm currently holding my own. I've completed the hardest circuit with two of the eleven players and I'm halfway through a third, so fingers crossed that I can get it done.

I'm also hoping to finally finish off GRAW 2 this weekend (Ghost Recon for non-fans) as I have the last bunch of DLC lined up to do with a bunch of like minded folks. It went well last week so hopefully this time will follow a similar pattern. Fingers crossed.

Then it will be back to FIFA 12 and grinding my way through the required 159 games to finish off the DLC. I've no idea how many I've done so far but hopefully I'm at least a third of the way through. I really loved FIFA 12 when it came out but ridiculous tasks like this can go that one step too far and turn love for a game into apathy. Honestly, who comes up with this stuff?